NASCAR Barometer: Truex Wins Second Race

NASCAR Barometer: Truex Wins Second Race

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Sunday's Southern 500 was a story of mistakes and Martin Truex Jr. made none, which enabled him to beat some of the fastest cars on track to claim his second win of the 2016 season. His win at Darlington Raceway was different than his dominant win in Charlotte. Truex didn't have the fastest car, but his team never put a foot wrong and that difference put the No. 78 team in Victory Lane.

Kevin Harvick started Sunday's race from pole and was the fastest car on track through the majority of the night. He led 214 of the race's 367 laps, but his bid for victory came unraveled on pit road. Truex and his team were there to pick up the pieces, and their quick work on pit road to put Truex on track faster than the other contenders was what enabled them to score another win.

Just one more race remains before the Chase for the Sprint Cup gets underway. That leaves drivers like Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray fighting tenaciously for every position they can get on track in an effort to claim their spot in the championship fight. Just seven points separate McMurray and Newman for that final Chase spot heading into Richmond this week.

UPGRADE

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex capitalized by piecing together the fastest car on track in the final miles of Sunday's Southern 500 and was helped by Kevin Harvick's missed steps on pit road. The No. 78 headed

Sunday's Southern 500 was a story of mistakes and Martin Truex Jr. made none, which enabled him to beat some of the fastest cars on track to claim his second win of the 2016 season. His win at Darlington Raceway was different than his dominant win in Charlotte. Truex didn't have the fastest car, but his team never put a foot wrong and that difference put the No. 78 team in Victory Lane.

Kevin Harvick started Sunday's race from pole and was the fastest car on track through the majority of the night. He led 214 of the race's 367 laps, but his bid for victory came unraveled on pit road. Truex and his team were there to pick up the pieces, and their quick work on pit road to put Truex on track faster than the other contenders was what enabled them to score another win.

Just one more race remains before the Chase for the Sprint Cup gets underway. That leaves drivers like Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray fighting tenaciously for every position they can get on track in an effort to claim their spot in the championship fight. Just seven points separate McMurray and Newman for that final Chase spot heading into Richmond this week.

UPGRADE

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex capitalized by piecing together the fastest car on track in the final miles of Sunday's Southern 500 and was helped by Kevin Harvick's missed steps on pit road. The No. 78 headed to front of the field in the final third of the race after showing competitive pace in Saturday's practice sessions, and was able to stay out front through the final restarts to claim his second victory of the season. The team proved that having a mistake-free night is often the difference between winning and losing. Truex can now be firmly focused on being mistake-free in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Only next week's Richmond race stands in his way of commencing that battle.

Kevin Harvick – He didn't start from pole due to his single-lap speed in qualifying, but Harvick was the car to beat in Sunday's Southern 500. As the race grew longer, his pit stops were the undoing of what may have been a perfect race. Two stops saw the No. 4 team struggle with tire changes, which gave up the track position Harvick earned by running so quickly. Then, while chasing Truex in the final laps, Harvick bumped the wall by driving aggressively to overcome the pit road issues, but he still persevered to finish second. Harvick has three top-five Richmond finishes in the last five races and owns three victories at the track. The Chase is approaching, and he could be hard to beat if the team can eliminate its mistakes.

Brad Keselowski – Keselowski started Sunday's Southern 500 in fine form by chasing Harvick. After the first caution, it was the No. 2 who found himself out front for a bit. A loose wheel forced him out of the top two for the first time and he dropped off the lead lap with the stop to change it, and a similar situation happened late in the running as well. Late restarts gave Keselowski a chance to fight back, but a constant battle with track position meant that he could only come back to finish ninth on a difficult night. Keselowski's only Richmond victory came in the fall race two years ago. He finished 11th or better in four of the last five races at the track.

Joey Logano – Logano credits his Penske Racing team with diligent preparation prior to each race weekend to overcome slow practices and be a frontrunner in the races. That talent was clearly on display at Darlington where his practice speeds suggested he would be nowhere near the lead in the race. Instead, Logano came to run second behind Harvick at the 200-lap mark and fought inside the top five throughout the final restarts. His fifth-place finish was his 10th of the season and his fourth consecutive top-10 finish heading into the final race before the Chase. Logano has five consecutive top-10 finishes at Richmond heading into this week's race and should roll into the playoffs at full strength.

Chase Elliott – Elliott showed maturity beyond his rookie status again Sunday. The young driver stepped into huge shoes left by Jeff Gordon who drove the car before him, but Elliott is rapidly proving that he has what it takes. He fought at the front of the field all night on Sunday, and showed virtually no weakness when matched up against the best drivers in the sport right now. Elliott's effort came slightly undone in the final restarts, but his top-five only transitioned into a top-10 finish, which was his 13th of the season. He hasn't yet grabbed a top-10 finish at Richmond, but he has only raced there twice. His worst finish at the track was 16th in his first outing there in 2014.

Kyle Larson – Special mention after the Southern 500 goes to Larson. The young driver picked up his first win at Michigan two weeks ago, but then came back last week and put himself in contention to score back-to-back victories right off the bat. Larson led 45 laps at Darlington last week and is brimming with confidence as he goes into Richmond this week. He hasn't yet scored a top-10 finish at the short Virginia oval, but after his performances the past two weeks fantasy players should reasonably expect him to outperform his history this week. In five Richmond races he has a best finish of 11th and an average finish of 13.2. A top-10 finish should be expected this week, which will boost his confidence even further as the Chase looms.

DOWNGRADE

Jimmie Johnson – A scrape on Johnson's rear fender led his crew to push on the rear during a pit stop, which NASCAR then called an unapproved adjustment. The ruling meant Johnson had to return to pit road and that put him behind the lead lap with just over 100 laps complete. Later in the race while racing to return to the lead lap, the No. 48 spun and hit the inside wall, which deflated the hopes of making a full recovery before the finish. By the end of the night, Johnson was just circling the track making laps and finished 33rd with a lost opportunity. Johnson has three Richmond wins and led 44 laps there earlier this season when he scored his fourth consecutive top-10 finish at the circuit.

Ryan Blaney – Labor Day weekend wasn't what Blaney had hoped for. The young driver was off the pace in practice, and then scraped the wall before the halfway mark of the race. He pitted quickly after to check the damage, and ultimately suffered even further with an unscheduled stop after returning to the track. It was a night full of mistakes on track from the young driver, but Darlington can be a difficult track. He will improve in future seasons, but his 13th-place finish on Sunday won't do him as much good as he had hoped before the weekend began. Blaney started 29th and finished 28th at Richmond earlier this year in his only Sprint Cup start at the short oval.

Tony Stewart – While racing Brian Scott midway through Sunday's race Stewart's patience reached its limit and he turned into Scott's machine causing a crash. The former champion was frustrated with Scott's driving, but the outcome was something that was clearly intentional. Race officials immediately asked Stewart to report to the NASCAR office after the race, and actions like that won't help his cause as the Chase approaches and he attempts to end his career with another title. His night was finally over when the engine gave way with less than 100 laps remaining. Stewart can try to regain his composure this week at Richmond where he has three career wins but zero top-10 finishes in the last six attempts.

Greg Biffle – One of Biffle's last chances to make the Chase slipped away in Darlington. The No. 16 car got loose late in Sunday night's race and clouted the wall with the right rear side of his car. The damage brought out a caution and put Biffle's car in the pits for repair. He ended the night in 36th position, which was his third finish outside of the top 20 in just the last five races. Unlike Darlington, Biffle has never been able to score a win at Richmond. His average finish from 28 career starts is 17.5 and he only has one top-10 there in a stretch of nearly 20 races at the oval heading into this week's final regular-season effort.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Ryan Newman – Running well at Darlington may not have been a surprise from Newman since he has historically been strong at the circuit. What was impressive was his ability to hang on to the lead late in the race on old tires. The team made a brave call to put him out front by not pitting on what could have been the final caution of the race, and Newman drove his wheels off to hold onto the lead ahead of eventual winner Truex for a significant amount of miles. Gutsy efforts like Sunday's make the difference in NASCAR's Chase format, and Newman may advance further than expected as a result. First he has to qualify for that fight, though. His final chance to do so comes this week in Richmond.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
F1 and NASCAR DFS: PrizePicks selections for the Chinese Grand Prix and GEICO 500
F1 and NASCAR DFS: PrizePicks selections for the Chinese Grand Prix and GEICO 500
NASCAR DFS: GEICO 500
NASCAR DFS: GEICO 500
GEICO 500 Preview: Superspeedway Battle
GEICO 500 Preview: Superspeedway Battle
NASCAR Barometer: Chase Elliott Breaks Winless Streak
NASCAR Barometer: Chase Elliott Breaks Winless Streak